Sunday, June 14, 2009

Come See About the Supremes...

So let's say you've just discovered the mega-group from Motown, the Supremes (1964-1970). But you're on a limited budget. You wonder if it's better to buy the single-CD Number Ones collection; or wait for the forthcoming book - to be released on June 29, 2009 - The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal by Mark Ribowsky?

Ribowsky's 408 pages seems a bit too long in both title and content. It is certainly not bad and Ribowsky earlier wrote He's a Rebel, a biography of Phil Spector. The problem is that this book could have been subtitled: The Social (or Sex) Lives of the Supremes.

The Supremes has details a'plenty if your priority is to find out who slept with who... yawn. When it comes to music, not so much. In fact, you won't find much about recording dates and details until you're near page 200. This reader felt that Ribowsky's read entailed too much work to find the information I was seeking.

To the contrary, delightfully, is the Number Ones CD on UM (Universal Music). This popular collection is now in its third release (earlier released in 2004 and 2007) and makes it easy as can be for the listener. Like The Essential Four Tops, the sound is mid-range and crystal clear. Special attention has been paid to bringing forth the vocals of Diana, Flo and Mary - and it shows.

The CD also offers a few treats, such as giving us longer versions of the singles in which the girls sing past the music's end; the single "Stoned Love" from the Diana-less second generation Supremes; and a dance re-mix version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On."

Ones contains all of 24 tracks in chronological order from "Where Did Our Love Go" - the one track without the best sound - to Diana's "Endless Love" 1981 duet with Lionel Richie. The Supremes' best song - an opinion shared by Holland, Dozier, Holland - "Come See About Me" has never sounded better!

Only one arguable essential track has been left off of Ones, the pre-"Where Did..."/"Baby Love" single "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes." (But then their second album is still available as a separate CD.) "Lovelight..." was the song that first exposed most disc jockeys to the genius of the Supremes, and it was to be perfectly covered as an album track by the late, great, Dusty Springfield.

Our recommendation: Choose the Number 1's CD ($13.98) and hold off on Ribowsky's book ($26.00) until you can borrow it from a friend or purchase it in paperback.

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